The use of ‘President of Bharat’ in place of the traditional ‘President of India’ in an official invite to foreign leaders attending the G20 summit has sparked a flurry of political reactions. While opposition leaders have slammed the move and linked it to their 28-party alliance naming itself INDIA, the BJP has questioned why some parties “object to every issue related to the honour and pride of the country”.
One of the sharpest reactions to the wording used in the invite came from AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal who asked whether the ruling party would change the country’s name to ‘BJP’ if the opposition alliance decided to call itself ‘Bharat’.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, the Delhi chief minister said in Hindi, “I have no official information that this (a name change) is happening. Just because many opposition parties have formed an alliance and called it INDIA, will the Centre change the name of the country? The country belongs to 140 crore people, not to one party. If the name of the alliance is changed to Bharat, will they change the name of Bharat to BJP?”
Mr Kejriwal’s party colleague and Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha also hit out at the BJP and said that the country does not belong to one political party.
“The BJP’s recent move to change the reference from ‘President of India’ to ‘President of Bharat’ on official G20 summit invitations has raised eyebrows and ignited a public debate. How can the BJP strike down ‘INDIA’? The country doesn’t belong to a political party; it belongs to 135 crore Indians. Our national identity is not the BJP’s personal property that it can modify on whims and fancies.Judega Bharat. Jeetega INDIA,” Mr Chadha posted on X, formerly Twitter.
The BJP’s recent move to change the reference from ‘President of India’ to ‘President of Bharat’ on official G20 summit invitations has raised eyebrows and ignited a public debate. How can the BJP strike down ‘INDIA’? The country doesn’t belong to a political party; it belongs to… pic.twitter.com/riYNdQBkYa
— Raghav Chadha (@raghav_chadha) September 5, 2023
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the whole world knows the country as India and wondered whether the name of Rabindranath Tagore would be changed next.
“I have heard that they are changing the name of India. The invites in the name of the President say Bharat. What’s new in this? We say India in English and Bharat in Hindi. Even we say Bharat. But the world knows the country as India. What happened suddenly that the country’s name will be changed? Will the name of kabi thakur (Rabindranath Tagore) also be changed,” she asked.
RJD leader Manoj Jha said: “It has just been a few weeks since we named our alliance as INDIA and BJP has started sending invitations with ‘Republic of Bharat’ instead of ‘Republic of India’. Article 1 of the Constitution reads ‘India, that is Bharat’. Neither will you be able to take India from us, nor Bharat.”
The move also invited scathing criticism from the Congress, which accused the Narendra Modi government of “distorting history and dividing India”.
In a post on X, Congress General Secretary and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said, “So the news is indeed true. Rashtrapati Bhawan has sent out an invite for a G20 dinner on Sept 9th in the name of ‘President of Bharat’ instead of the usual ‘President of India’. Now, Article 1 in the Constitution can read: ‘Bharat, that was India, shall be a Union of States.’ But now even this “Union of States” is under assault.”
Mr. Modi can continue to distort history and divide India, that is Bharat, that is a Union of States. But we will not be deterred.
After all, what is the objective of INDIA parties?
It is BHARAT—Bring Harmony, Amity, Reconciliation And Trust.
Jeetega INDIA! https://t.co/L0gsXUEEEK
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) September 5, 2023
He added, “Mr. Modi can continue to distort history and divide India, that is Bharat, that is a Union of States. But we will not be deterred. After all, what is the objective of INDIA parties? It is BHARAT-Bring Harmony, Amity, Reconciliation And Trust. Judega BHARAT. Jeetega INDIA!”
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he hoped the government would not be “foolish” enough to dispense with the name ‘India’, which has a brand value built over centuries
“While there is no constitutional objection to calling India ‘Bharat’, which is one of the country’s two official names, I hope the government will not be so foolish as to completely dispense with “India”, which has incalculable brand value built up over centuries. We should continue to use both words rather than relinquish our claim to a name redolent of history, a name that is recognised around the world,” he said on X.
BJP leaders and ministers, however, welcomed the use of the word Bharat and accused the Congress of being anti-national and anti-constitutional.
One of the first reactions was from Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who said the wording of the invite made him proud. “REPUBLIC OF BHARAT – happy and proud that our civilisation is marching ahead boldly towards AMRIT KAAL,” Mr Sarma said on X.
REPUBLIC OF BHARAT – happy and proud that our civilisation is marching ahead boldly towards AMRIT KAAL
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) September 5, 2023
In a stinging response to the statement by Congress leaders, BJP President JP Nadda said the opposition party has no respect for the country or the Constitution.
कांग्रेस को देश के सम्मान एवं गौरव से जुड़े हर विषय से इतनी आपत्ति क्यों है?
भारत जोड़ो के नाम पर राजनीतिक यात्रा करने वालों को “भारत माता की जय” के उद्घोष से नफरत क्यों है?
स्पष्ट है कि कांग्रेस के मन में न देश के प्रति सम्मान है, न देश के संविधान के प्रति और न ही संवैधानिक…
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) September 5, 2023
“Why does the Congress object so much to every issue related to the honour and pride of the country? Why does a party that took out a political yatra in the name of Bharat Jodo hate the proclamation of Bharat Mata Ki Jai? It is clear that the Congress has no respect for the country, Constitution, or constitutional institutions. All it cares about is the praise of one particular family. The whole country knows the anti-national and anti-constitutional intentions of the Congress very well,” the BJP chief said in Hindi.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the decision to use ‘Bharat’ is a big statement against the colonial mindset.
“This should have happened earlier. It gives me great satisfaction. ‘Bharat’ is our introduction and we are proud of it. The President has given priority to ‘Bharat’. I am certain the country will be very happy on learning of this. This is a big statement against the colonial mindset,” he said.
A one-line post by megastar Amitabh Bachchan was also linked by social media users to the political row over the G20 invite.
T 4759 – 🇮🇳 भारत माता की जय 🚩
— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) September 5, 2023
“Bharat Mata Ki Jai (victory to Mother India),” the actor posted on X.